Being with a loved one struggling through mental health is a difficult place to sit. Sometimes in our frustration well-intentioned words or phrases come out that do more harm than good. Following is a list of seven things to avoid saying and why they are hurtful.
Just have faith
Faith is a beautiful thing. While it is one component of mental health, it is not the only piece. Mental illness needs to be addressed holistically. This means that there is a spiritual, emotional and physical side. By focusing on faith alone it minimizes the problem and encourages the sufferer to ignore proven medical and psychological treatments that can actually help them. When prayer alone does not heal, the one suffering now carries the shame and stigma that you, not God, placed on their shoulders.
But you have everything going for you
No matter how good someone’s life looks from the outside, the struggles within are still very much real. Mental health is not dependent on things going just right. There are many things that cause mental health, from past trauma to chemical imbalances. While pointing out the good in life might feel as though you are helping, what you are really doing is telling the one suffering he or she has no right to feel this way. Trust me, if a positive mindset was all it took, your loved one would already be cured. Treatment is trickier than “faking it till you make it.”
Well if you would just …
This could be anything from advice on diet, exercise, a self-help book, a nap or more. There is no easy solution to mental health. It is a process that requires a loving community of support. A better thing to say would be, “Well, I’ll just sit with you for now and if you want to talk we can; if not that’s fine too.” Being there for them, even in silence, is vital.
We often want to fix things, especially when those we love are hurting. This isn’t something you can fix. This is one of those times you simply acknowledge that it’s not about the nail.
Stop looking for attention
Would you say this to someone who was told they’d be living with chronic pain for the rest of their life? No? Then don’t say it to someone who has just told you they have a mental health issue. Better advice is don’t say it to anyone ever. It’s just not nice.
Pick yourself up
If they could, you wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place. This isn’t a skinned knee that you rub a little dirt in and press on. Mental health issues can be debilitating. Being anxious over a test you haven’t studied for is far different than a panic attack that feels more like a heart attack while simultaneously being trapped in a room with a lion ready to pounce.
Do you even want to get better?
Well, yes. Of course they do. No one wants to live with a debilitating condition. We all want health and happiness. Dumb question. Don’t say it. It only communicates your frustration.
Am I not enough for you?
This question is hard. It is often said in desperation after hearing the person you love wants to die. The problem is that this question projects your own insecurities onto your loved one, giving them an additional burden to carry. No one person is enough for another person. You aren’t enough. Your loved one needs help, and they need you to listen.
Encourage your loved one to reach out for help. At Centerpoint, we acknowledge anxiety is a real and powerful mental health disorder. We stand by the sides of those who struggle with it. We encourage others to do the same and to empower people in their community to care for those suffering from anxiety. If you would like to set up an appointment with one of our counselors, call us at 813-689-1906. We would be honored to walk alongside you both during this time.